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CIN@CHC: Bruce doubles home Phillips in the seventh

CHICAGO -- Stiff winds blowing in throughout the three-game series between the Reds and Cubs meant home runs were anything but plentiful.

Yet Carlos Pena defied both physics and the elements to do in the Reds on Wednesday night. The Cubs' first baseman absolutely crushed a Bill Bray pitch for a three-run home run on to Sheffield Avenue in the bottom of the eighth inning, the deciding moment in Cincinnati's 6-3 loss.

"We had the matchup we wanted," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "Billy has been great on lefties all year, hitting [.188] off him. Pena is hitting [.135] off lefties. He made a mistake and hung a slider that didn't slide. It just spun up there. He didn't miss it."

The Reds, who fell to 70-73, are 3-3 on a road trip with three games in Colorado remaining. They dropped two in Chicago, with all three games being decided by three runs or fewer.

"Anytime you have these games where they are close games, it's tough," said left fielder Yonder Alonso, who was 3-for-4 with an RBI. "You just have to move forward with it, learn from it and keep playing."

It was a 3-3 game in the bottom of the eighth when reliever Logan Ondrusek (4-5) gave up Starlin Castro's leadoff single to right field. A sacrifice put Castro on second base, and Ondrusek intentionally walked Aramis Ramirez so Bray could enter and take on Pena.

Pena is a .227 hitter on the season, but dangerous with 26 homers and 72 RBIs. Bray's first pitch was attacked, and there was no doubt it was leaving Wrigley Field despite 16-mph winds blowing in.

The long ball gave Pena five homers and 16 RBIs vs. Cincinnati this season.

"It doesn't make sense," Baker said. "Evidentially, he must like hitting off of us."

Those same winds did not do the Reds any favors in the top of the seventh inning. Trailing 3-1, they had the bases loaded with no outs against Ryan Dempster when lefty James Russell was called on to face Joey Votto.

Votto made solid contact and drove the ball to right field, where it died into the glove of Bryan LaHair for a sacrifice fly. Jay Bruce's liner past the third baseman went down the left-field line for an RBI double that made it a 3-3 game.

Alonso hit a drive to center field that was held by the wind and landed in medium center field. It certainly wasn't deep enough. Edgar Renteria tagged up from third base, but he was thrown out at the plate on Reed Johnson's perfect throw.

"We were sort of bitten by the prevailing winds of Wrigley Field, or else we would have scored a lot of runs," Baker said.

Winless in his past four starts, though he hasn't taken a loss in any, Reds starter Johnny Cueto could very well wind up with an ERA title but without double-digit wins. Cueto gave up three runs and seven hits over seven innings without walking a batter, striking out three. His ERA crept upward from 2.29 to 2.36, but that is still best in the Majors.

Justin Verlander ranks just behind Cueto with a 2.44 ERA. The Tigers' ace, however, has 22 victories. Cueto is definitely gunning for the National League crown, with the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (2.45) just behind him.

"Of course I want to," Cueto said through an interpreter. "I've put in all my best to get it done. You know what? Sometimes you throw seven innings and instead of going down, it goes up."

Cueto had a 1-0 lead, after Alonso's RBI single, when he went to work against Chicago in the first. He gave up only one hit and faced the minimum over his first four innings, all scoreless.

"I felt really well," Cueto said. "I felt like always, with a lot of energy."

In the fifth, Pena led off with a double and went to third on a wild pitch. Pena scored on DJ LeMahieu's two-out grounded single into left field. Chicago went ahead in the sixth when Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run double to the left-field corner.

"He's tough, and I wish I was smart enough to know why we've had some success against him, and we have," Cubs manager Mike Quade said of Cueto. "Maybe when he's sharp early and strong, he's tough on whoever. If he tires some, you get opportunities. For DJ to get that RBI single was big early. You just keep battling him."

Cueto is 9-5 after 23 starts this season. His previous two starts left him in position to win before the Reds blew saves.

"He gives you a good outing every time he goes out," Alonso said. "He works well with what he has every day and is a competitor. He will give you a chance to win, and he did that today."

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